March 17th, 2005

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Hostage" - an artistic thriller from the Bruce Willis canon

John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Bruce Willis have
established their own unique niche in the action
genre. Often the plot and situations would be
similar, but with a variation that comments on the
action hero. From "Rio Bravo" to "El Dorado,"
John Wayne portrayed a community leader who must
confront aging while defending the community.
Eastwood's man with no name persona under went a
religious transformation from "High Plains Drifter"
to "Pale Rider." With "Hostage," Willis
reflects upon the similar character he created in
films like "Striking Distance," "Mercury Rising,"
and his "Die Hard" trilogy. The final result is a
unique motion picture that will be better appreciated
in the future than current box office results.

Based on the book by Robert Crais, the film opens
during a tough hostage negotiation in urban Los
Angeles. Despite Talley's (Willis) best efforts, the
stand off ends in tragedy. A year later Talley becomes
the chief of police in a quiet suburban community that
looks eerily like modern Lighthouse Point. At this
point, we are introduced to two set of people. A
upper class accountant's family and three teenage punks
with criminal motivations. The family has recently
moved into a Frank Lloyd Wright home. The family
consists of Walter Smith (Kevin Pollack), Jennifer (Michelle Horn), a private
school student who dresses slutty and studies the
zodiac. Tommy Smith (Jimmy Bennett) is a boy genius.

Mars (Ben Foster) and the Kelly Brothers (Jonathon Tucker and Marshall Allman)
break into a house and bungle the robbery. A
police officer is shot and Sheriff Talley must negotiate a
peaceful solution. The situation gets more complicated
when Sheriff Talleys's family is kidnapped by the mob.
Sheriff Talley is told that no one can enter the house
until the mob obtains a secret disk of money
laundering schemes. Talley caught between Scylla and
Charybdis.

"Hostage" unfolds at a pleasurable pace. The
situations create a psychological dynamic that grips
the audience. Though Talley is the leading character, the
six other lead characters are defined enough to keep
character conflict and surprise at a maximum. The
action sequences are well directed and the inferno
finale allows for some artistic flourish featuring
angelic and demonic motifs.

There is a beauty and beast dynamic between Jennifer and
Mars, the psycho leader of the gang. She is
calculating as he is unpredictable. As two brothers
seduced by psychopathic peer pressure, Tucker and Allman
bicker like the Smothers Brothers and are doomed to
meaningless fate. While on the opposite side of the
law, Willis and Pollack share the same paternal
motivations. Despite intense professional demands,
both men want to protect their families.

"Hostage" does suffer from some false notes upon
reflection. Given the hostage situation, young Tommy Smith is too
clear thinking and does not seem too scared. While under siege,
the boy moves around the house with relative
ease through an air conditioner crawl space. Later
there is a chase between the children and adults in
the same crawl space. given the size of these elastic air condition vents,
one must wonder the electric bills must be in the Smith household.

As a whole, "Hostage" provides Saturday matinee
popcorn eating entertainment. If you miss it in the
that theatre, the film will make for an interesting home theater
presentation. It is fun to compare the Bruce Willis
action figure and contrast the characters between each
motion picture. Sheriff Talley of "Hostage" is a much more cerebral character than
John McClain of the "Die Hard" trilogy. At least Willis cast his own daughter, Rumor Willis,
in the role of Sheriff Talley's daughter.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Robots - a kiddie movie that celebrates American business

When I was a senior at Deerfield Beach High School, I
ushered at the United Artists movies at Pompano.
"Walt Disney's The Fox and the Hound" opened, it was
the first time I saw a Disney animated feature on the
big screen. My colleague in crowd control wondered why
I would be interested in such a baby movie. I told
him, "People pay to see one painting in a museum. An
animated movie is multiple paintings." My colleague
gave me a look and I later caught this individual
watching "The Fox and the Hound" during our down
time.

"Robots" is an artistic film, but is more
cooler than "The Fox and the Hound."
From the animated creators of "Ice Age,"
20th Century Fox has defined their animated studio in
direct contrast to the DreamWorks factory.
Given their success with "Ice Age," 20th Century Fox
animators avoid the reliance upon pop culture gags
that DreamWorks frequently relies upon. Fox's" "Robots" and
"Ice Age" will date better than DreamWorks'
"Shrek 2" and "Shark's Tale.**

"Robots" opens with the robotic birth of Rodney
Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan Macgregor), the son of
Herb (Stanley Tucci) and Moma Copperbottom (Diane Weist).
Despite a house full of love and respect,
the Copperbottoms are a struggling middle class
family. Herb Copperbottom is a dishwasher at
Gunk's Greasy Spoon. Watching his father struggle,
Rodney hits upon an idea to make his father's work
easier and more efficient. Despite a few mechanical setbacks,
Rodney decides to take his invention to the big city.

Growing up under the media influence of Big Weld (Mel
Brooks), Rodney is determined to meet his mentor and
present his invention. Instead Rodney learns that
Ratchet (Greg Kinnear), a corporate raider is really
running Big Weld's company. Ratchet's priority is huge profits
over efficient productivity. Rodney is named the
enemy of Big Weld Enterprises and he must flee into
the streets. Rodney is adopted by Fender (Robin
Williams), who introduces Rodney to his band of
Impoverished friends. These robots are impoverished
because they are no longer finding replacement parts
and are becoming scrap metal for Ratchet and his devilish mother.

The robot holocaust of the scrap melting could have
been scary to pre school aged children. Fortunately
these scenes feature the manic energy of Robin
Williams and the darkest moments undertake a lighter
tone. The dark tone of "Robots" may be better
understood by adults who may be the victim of
corporate corruption. (This film appears to be a parable of the Charles Schwab company)
Ratchet's motivation has the same rationale one encounters from corporate
customer service representatives.

The narrative drive does run out of gas and relies on
too much Robin Williams to pad out the story time. Yet
"Robots" is a triumph of style over content. The
Mechanical world of "Robots" owes a debt to Charlie
Chaplin's "Modern Times,," Max Escher's artwork and
the inventive Warner Brothers cartoons from the 1930's
and 1940's.

"Robots" is a modern movie that deserves it's
success. The film offers a unique fable that works on
both the adult and children's level. "Robots" shares
the American Dream of entrepreneurship and positive
thinking.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"The Pacifier" - 46 million dollars may prove mainstream critics wrong

Despite negative reviews from the mainstream media.,
"The Pacifier" has earned over 46 million dollars in
box office gross receipts after two weeks. Most critics denigrated
Vin Diesel's performance, the Walt Disney formula for
story lines made out of syrup, and random acts of
slapstick violence. What these mainstream urban
elitist critics missed was the film maker's tribute to
everyday heroism of being a parent.

"The Pacifier" opens with the upgraded Disney logo
and features sinister military music. When the musical
chords subtly shift to Jiminy Cricket's "When you Wish
upon a Star," the tone for fun has been set. With the
panache of a James Bond opening action sequence, Navy
Seal Shane Wolfe (Diesel) rescues a brilliant
Professor of military technology. The rescue attempt
is successful, but the Professor is shot by a mole in
the military organization.

Given the top secret nature of the Professor's work,
Shane is reassigned as a protector to the Professor's
widow and five children. The widow (Faith Ford) is
flown to Switzerland in an effort to unlock a Swiss
safe. Shane must contend with a rebellious daughter
(Brittany Snow), a blond hair-blue eyed conflicted son
(Max Theriot) and a middle school aged girl scout (
Morgan York) who develops a crush on Shane. The lean
mean fighting machine must also contend with a brother
and sister who are not potty trained. Shane learns
that being a surrogate father these days is as
important as hunting terrorists.

"The Pacifier" thrives as a comedy when it matches
cliched movie action violence with the rigors of daily
domestic duties. When Shane changes the baby's diaper,
it is performed with the same intensity of defusing a
bomb. Avoiding the tardy bell necessitates in a wild
car chase in the spirit of "Bullitt" and "The French
Connection." These scenes are so comically
exaggerated that most people will appreciate

Director Adam Shankman needs to be commended for
directing the action sequences. by avoiding the
hyperactive editing style, "The Pacifier" features
some fight scenes done in the tongue in cheek style of
Jackie Chan. The action occurs in the frame of the
lens and the actors performance is the better for it.

Each actor is given a moment to shine in "The
Pacifier." Being the film's ring master, Vin Diesel
balances the brutal intensity of being a Navy Seal
with goofiness of singing nursery rhymes. Brad Garrett
("Everybody Loves Raymond's" Big Brother) is a civil
servant bully who has a redemptive moment in the last
frame of the movie. Lauren Graham is too pretty to be
the principal of the children's school, but she proves
to equal partner for Shane's romantic distractions. As
the Plummer Children, Brittany Snow and Max Thieriot
are given the most dramatic roles. Both actors cover
the heart of the story that makes the transition from
troubled teens to assertive young adults.

So what is the final verdict on "The Pacifier?"
I know that I went into the movie in a bad mood. When I
departed theatre, I was in a better mood. The
afternoon crowd of family ticket buyers shared the
same sensibility and applauded the film's climax.
Sometimes mainstream elitist critics do not understand
the power of a movie with positive themes and a sense
of humor.
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

Literary Cinema - "The Most Dangerous Game" : Free presentation in Fort Lauderdale!

Seventy two Easter vacations ago, Fay Wray was on the promotional tour for "King Kong," a movie released during the darkest days of the Depression. "King Kong" went on to break box office records and save the R.K.O. Studio from bankruptcy. Miss Wray's participation in "King Kong" involved ten months of filming in 1932. Since she was not needed on the set everyday, due to the special effects, Miss Wray worked on several motion pictures at the same time, including "The Most Dangerous Game" with Joel McCrae.

This 1932 classic is the blueprint for all modern day thrillers and horror movies. Leslie Bank's Count Zaroff must be a blood ancestor of Dr. Hannibal Lector. There is nightmarish imagery and brutal action sequences featuring man battling beast. The movie is only 63 minutes long, but it packs a powerful punch 72 years after release.

Broward County Main Library will be presenting a free screening of "The Most Dangerous Game" on Saturday, March 19, 2005 @ 1 p.m.
CinemaDave will introduce this motion picture on behalf of the Bonnie Kafin Fund to promote literature. In the spirit of the Moxie Saturday Matinee from the 1930's, CinemaDave will also present the six minute test reel for "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"

Joel McCrea and Fay Wray in a David O. Selznick/Merian Cooper/ Ernest B. Schoedsack production....
"Literary Cinema" does not get better than this...!